The author of this article chose to remain anonymous.
My daughter is in third grade and generally excels in most subjects. She is a quick learner and likes to take on new projects.
A few months ago she brought home some test scores from school. She was tested in spelling, phonetics, reading, and math. And for the first time in her history at school, she failed half of them.
As a parent I naturally wanted to see her make it right. I wanted her to say something that showed me she cared about the low test scores. “Mom, I am going to look at the questions I missed and redo them to see where I went wrong” would have been a perfect example.
But instead she said nothing. She placed the folder of tests on our kitchen counter and left it there for us to review. She already knew what was inside, but didn’t give us any heads up and went off to play upstairs.
When we called her back down to review the tests and to help figure out where she went wrong, she fought us the entire way. She didn’t understand why she had to review it, and didn’t seem to have a care in the world about letting us help her.
So we gave up, and she went back upstairs to play.
Letting her go was definitely one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Because I never want to give up on my daughter, and yet in that moment I feel like I did.
But then it also dawned on me that I can’t force my daughter to do anything against her will.
She made a choice that day to ignore the help we tried to provide. She chose play time over study time. And even though it frustrated me greatly, it reminded me how fast my little girl is growing up.
My daughter is becoming independent. She is figuring out her life and is starting to walk her own path. She is learning that not all days will be good ones. And maybe on this day, she needed that playtime to simply bring back “her happy” again.
It occurred to me that all of us have failed at something. Whether it was a written test in school, a deadline we didn’t meet at work, or even a poor decision that tarnished a good relationship, failure is part of our history…and will continue to be a part of our future.
So what do we do when we fail at something as adults? I like to say I learn from my mistakes, and then try to forget about it.
I think about where I went wrong and what I could have done differently. I then archive that moment in my head as a lesson learned and try to do something else to take my mind off of it. I might go out for dinner and a drink with friends or read a good book on the living room sofa, for example.
And at night I close my eyes in bed, hoping tomorrow will bring a better day.
So when I look at how my daughter dealt with those poor test scores, it dawned on me that she will still be ok. Maybe it was just a bad day. Maybe it was laziness. Maybe it was lack of interest. Or maybe she has other things on her mind.
That doesn’t mean she is destined for failure in life. It simply means life is helping her see the unexpected turns that may lie ahead.
So whatever the reason she failed these tests, I have to trust she learned from the experience and that she is doing exactly what any adult would do to get through the rest of the day.
I know this is probably the first of many failures still ahead for her. But as much as it pains me, I now know I can’t always make things right.
As her mom I vow to do everything in my power to help guide her towards a path of success. But today I realized I must also step away at times and let her figure out things on her own.
That does not mean I am a bad parent, nor does it mean I don’t care about my daughter’s future. It simply means I am giving her a chance to find her own way. I am giving her an opportunity to learn for herself and to see where her decisions take her.
And guess what – a month later when she brought home her next exams, she passed every single one with flying colors.
So when your child has those “I don’t care” moments, consider the fact that maybe they do. They are learning how to cope with their decisions, and how to keep moving forward in life.
And just because you may choose not to help them, that does not mean you have given up on their future potential.
Have faith that our children will find their way. Lead by example, offer advice whenever you can, and trust that they will come to us for help when they need to.